No, Bill Maher, YOU Go F*ck Yourself

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I try to avoid obscenities, but that title was the only appropriate/fitting one I could come up with. This is Bill Maher we’re talking about, though, so that kind of thing is par for the course. I cannot even cite the above picture of him without usage-rights legally compelling me to drop another F-bomb!

I have never been a big TV watcher, but for some time, I could count Real Time with Bill Maher among the few shows that I would always be interested in catching. Hell, when I first started identifying as a liberal from a young age, Maher is a guy I quickly came to like and look up to. I saw him, as I still do now, as a smart guy with an unapologetically liberal stance. There really were few guys like him on TV simultaneously so funny, yet informative, and even inspiring in his commitment to liberal political beliefs.

Now, quite frankly, I can barely stand watching him.

This shift in opinion of him has been gradual over the past few years. One of the elephants in the room for me, a Muslim, watching him is his views towards Islam. To dislike the religion is not at all hard for me to accept, but Maher has had a habit of taking it one step further into outright hysterics about the “great” threat of radicals. When his views were challenged by intelligent guests like Glenn Greenwald, Bill would sound just like your typical Republican by blithely disregarding their rationale in favor of accusing them of being wide-eyed, childish idealists and sticking to his own ironically black-and-white world view.

Yet my difference with him on that issue is only the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is that Bill has become increasingly partisan over the years and has substituted conviction to liberal principles for loyalty to the Democratic party, save only for his gripe that the Dems play “identity politics” too much (an overblown concern, and one that I will show him to be inconsistent on as we proceed). That partisan hackery just became increasingly noticeable every year since Obama was first elected president.

Where Bill really lost me was his recent episode with Milo Yiannopoulos as a guest panelist. To be very clear, my issue is not simply that Bill invited Milo onto his show. In fact, on that I approve, with the caveat that you — as the host — do your research on your guests (especially controversial guests and those with Right-leaning political stances) and come ready to call their bullshit. Milo in particular happens to be full of bullshit, particularly hateful kinds at that.

What made me throw my hands up with Bill Maher for good was his performance as host during that episode with Milo. Bill’s deference to Milo’s dishonest, Transphobic views (likely due to Maher’s own ignorance on the topic, which goes to show he did not do his due diligence on the panelist he invited onto the show, even while knowing Milo to be a controversial figure), outright endorsements of his hateful views, and praise for the guy himself — to the effects of calling him a gay Christopher Hitchens — was truly disgusting.

Then, after taking the opportunity he had to hammer the guy to instead endlessly kiss his ass with it, Bill Maher turns around and tries to take credit for his fall from grace. It just so happened that someone found an old video clip of him playing apologist for pedophilia not long after that episode of the show aired. Milo had earned internet notoriety long before he made his appearance on Bill’s show, though, so it’s quite plausible that the discovery of that clip would have happened even without the appearance. Bill’s part in the fall of Milo, of course, was completely unintentional.

Pathetic.

I now move onto addressing a segment he did quite recently. At this point, I cannot feel any more disappointed in the guy, just further validated for being “done” with him when he says more stupid stuff. So, as the kids say, I ain’t even mad. I do, however, have a lot to say on it, and largely because I see this exercise as usual to future debates I expect to have.

From the top, let’s go through his ridiculous monologue point-by-point:

“[Donald Trump’s first 100 days] does give us enough evidence to ask those liberals who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary because she was the ‘lesser-of-two-evils’ — quite a bit lesser, wouldn’t you say now?”

Even before this segment aired, I noticed Bill had been kvetching a lot lately about how people called Hillary Clinton the “lesser of two evils.” Before making the above quote, he was calling on liberals to apologize just for ever calling her the “lesser of two evils,” as if Trump governing poorly retroactively makes her a good candidate rather than merely a less-bad option, but that underestimates the extent to which she was seen as bad by many, which is not at all unreasonable opinion to have of her (as we will walk through shortly).

Bill goes on to say soon after that he never loved Hillary. While he may not have ever loved her, he did like her and did see her as a good (if not great) candidate rather than just the lesser-evil — saying: “She would be a great president, or at least a good one, not a disastrous one.” That is not a tepid endorsement. Bill also donated $1,000,000 to her campaign, just as he did for Obama whom he did very much like.

But to his main point (“quite a bit lesser, wouldn’t you say?”): no, I would not, just as many other Americans last year did not. In fact, just as I was beginning to think recently that I had underestimated Trump’s greater evilness and was wrong not to vote for Clinton, the same thing happened that prevented me from voting for her just as I was beginning to seriously consider doing so: Hillary Clinton opened her mouth, and confirmed that my initial judgment of her was accurate.

What am I referring to? In response to the missile-strikes against Syria, Hillary Clinton not only applauded the move, but urged Trump — someone whom she has repeatedly called “unhinged” — to be even more aggressive. Thankfully, that does not appear to be a priority to this administration. Indeed, there is a good chance that the missile-strike was little more than “political theater” — Russia was notified of the attack in advance, and the targeted base was operational within less than 24 hours. I’d have preferred no strike at all, but will gladly accept political-theater to legitimately escalating tensions/conflict with Russia (a nuclear power) through attacking their ally.

If anything, I am beginning to think I was wrong to identify her as the lesser-evil between the two of them! As bad as Trump has been on almost everything else, where Hillary would either be better or little different, the prospect of conflict with Russia (again, a nuclear power) and its allies to the tune of the next World War is so mind-boggling that Trump’s nauseating presidency may just be worth the trouble for a few years just so long as he can keep us out of it (no guarantee, mind you, but nonetheless). And, to a (not much) lesser extent, Trump’s election win killed the TPP, whereas Clinton’s would have likely breathed life into its passage.

Finally, Bill does not seem to get that calling someone “the-lesser-of-two-evils” does not preclude voting for him/her. In fact, sad as it is to say, it often entails somebody voting for that very same candidate. You can usually count me among that group. I will vote for the lesser-evil candidate if they are at all decent, even if the Green Party candidate consistently aligns better overall with my positions than most Dems ever do, because it’s just the more practical way to go.

In my estimation, Clinton was decent on many issues (seldom much better than decent, because she is really not much of a Leftist), but her red-flags were *massive* to such an extent that I could not rationally overlook them. Her foreign-policy positions and track-record alike are abysmal. She is not a climate-change denier nor in favor of bringing back coal, but she did accept a lot of money from the fossil-fuel industry and was very much in favor of fracking, going so far as to spread its use around the planet. She loudly proclaimed that single-payer healthcare will never happen (behind closed doors). She has a history of supporting disastrous FTA’s. The only other important issue remaining on my list is Immigration, where she checks out alright, but not enough to make up for how horrible she was on the other big issues.

Furthermore, a lot of people voted for the candidate they saw as the lesser-evil between Trump and Clinton, yet there did not appear to be any clear or overwhelming consensus who that lesser-evil was. We can never truly know who the lesser-evil was, but there can logically only be one, so it stands to reason a lot of them got it wrong. If the difference in evils between two candidates is not clear, how can you be sure you are choosing the lesser? I, for my part, was long convinced that Clinton was the lesser-evil (though not appreciably good enough to vote for), yet now I stand in retrospect seriously coming to the conclusion that — as bad as Trump has been — we may have dodged a bullet (in the form of bomb droppings) by getting him instead.

No, she was not merely less-evil. She was awful as a candidate. And, as I see it, there is no point in voting for awful to stop godawful; the difference between them is not meaningful. Also, there is no objective measure that advances any candidate other than votes received in favor of them, so voters who did not cast their ballot for him bear no responsibility for that outcome. It’s just this radical idea of mine that democracy is about making your voice heard and trying to get what you want rather than trying to settling for what your overlords say is best for you (I hope you do not miss my sarcasm).

And, believe it or not, there is some pretty practical reason to vote for a 3rd-party candidate knowing full well they cannot win: you give the other parties/candidates impetus to shift more closely to your own position.

Did Jill Stein cost Hillary Clinton the election? Polling shows that most of her voters would not have voted for either her or Trump, likely electing to stay home or leave that section of the ballot blank, and the difference between those who’d have voted Clinton or Trump was not significant. One cannot so easily assume that all votes casted for Stein would have otherwise gone to Hillary Clinton. This also fails to account for the bigger electoral impact that Rightist candidate Gary Johnson had which, by the same logic, would have come at the detriment of Trump (I know not of Johnson voters’ preferences like I do of Stein’s, sorry).

Yet even if that idea could be proven, the subject of lesser-evil voters’ ire should not be directed at voters who did not share their views, but at the Democratic party for failing to nominate its best candidate to defeat Trump: Bernie Sanders. Sanders, as most know, was polling better against Trump than Clinton ever was. Also, more to the point, the (supposed) difference made by Stein’s voters would likely not have occurred under that scenario since Sanders is by-and-large a better version of Jill Stein.

You want people to stop voting for 3rd-party candidates? Then run candidates that are actually better!

“And no, this isn’t about reliving the last election, (…) it’s about winning the next election, and that begins with learning the difference between an imperfect-friend and a deadly-enemy.”

Congratulations, Bill: you learned absolutely nothing from the last election (especially not as it relates to winning the next one).

Before I elaborate on that, let me reiterate my previous point. Hillary Clinton is no friend, not even an imperfect one. She is a deadly-enemy, in the same vein Donald Trump is, and the difference between awful and godawful is not a meaningful one. This is exactly what Jill Stein said, which Bill will bring up shortly in another lousy attempt at saying “I told you so,” and I voted for her because I agree with her assessment and not Bill Maher’s. If you are going to try to argue otherwise, then you have lost credibility before you even began.

To that end: scaring people out of voting for your opponent (and vote for you by default) only works to a point, seldom is it enough to win on its own. You also have to inspire. Voting is a major hassle (thanks in large part to Dems failing to beat the GOP for control of most state governments), so the effort has to be justified by something that the (swing) voter truly believes in. This is precisely why we Berners maintain that Bernie would have won. He did not merely propose a better option to the (scary) alternative, he was an inspiring candidate whom people really wanted to vote for, and would have been more willing to turn out for (just look at the crowds he attracted). On top of that, aside from differences on the ideological (Right/Left) spectrum, Sanders offered very much the same appeal as a candidate as Trump: an outsider, populist, anti-establishment, straight-shooter, and the like. Trump, of course, was never a legitimate populist.

Even if you were able to beat Trump in this past election or in the upcoming one on fear -mongering alone, how sustainable is your model (and, more importantly, all the policies that you strive to advance under it) when the opposition can quite easily beat you if they just find a less outwardly scary and/or more inspiring candidate in the next go-around? I rather bite the bullet with a Republican president now (especially one who cannot pass for normal) than get a conservative Democrat for one term and a more credible Republican immediately thereafter, and precisely this nearsightedness of Bill’s will come up again later in this mad rant.

Besides which, it was the progressives who warned of this outcome all along. It was the Democratic party establishment that ignored the warning. You should be lecturing them, and those who continue to blindly follow, not us.

“Jill Stein said of her (*obnoxious sneer*) electoral rivals, Hillary and Trump: ‘One is death by gunshot wound, and the other is death by strangulation.’ Well I’m sure with Trump in charge and a racist attorney-general, there will be a lot more of both!”

Between these two statements, the show cuts to a scene showing police brutality of African American citizens. An excellent point there, because that is an entirely recent phenomenon which could not have possibly taken place under a Democratic president.

Oh, wait…

Dare I mention Clinton’s “super-predators,” statement??

“My dear friend Cornell West said during the campaign, ‘I think Trump will be a neofacist catastrophe and Clinton will be a neoliberal disaster.’ I don’t even know what a ‘neoliberal disaster’ even means, but whatever it is, isn’t it better than a fascist one?!?”

Does Bill Maher believe that his ignorance is a virtue, that he would proudly claim not to know the meaning of a simple political term? This is supposedly his expertise, and people who do not follow this as a full-time job know what that word means. Then he falls back on using the term “fascist” as an easy, auto-win buzzword. Times like these are when Bill sounds like your standard Republican hack, showing disdain and willful ignorance towards intellectual arguments to cling ever tighter to his precious, black-and-white worldviews.

I am mostly inclined to believe that he does know the meaning of the term as Dr. Cornell West used it and is playing dumb to avoid letting the audience consider the counter-argument, in a very intellectually dishonest fashion. You see now why I have become so disillusioned with Bill Maher? The man has truly placed himself firmly within partisan-hack territory.

The point that Dr. West and many others like him have made is that Hillary Clinton’s policies represent the new center within the establishment, the status-quo that people are stick and tired of. Her brand of it just happens to lean leftward, whereas the GOP’s neoconservative brand is a status-quo that leans rightward. It does not, however, represent the political center among the populace. That position is represented by Bernie Sanders, as evidenced by polling [2]. So while Bernie is far-left by the establishment’s standards, he really does represent the center where it really matters: American people.

Why the political arena does not reflect the people speaks to larger issues with our system that I will not address here in the interest of space; this entry is already long-winded enough. It is quite understandable, though, why people are unhappy with the the Washington establishment. Neocon and neolib policies have been disastrous for the environment, disastrous for the middle-class with the passage of FTA’s that have shipped good jobs overseas, disastrous for national-security by pushing for costly and pointless wars that have only created more terrorism and ill-will towards the USA. Hillary Clinton’s policies reflected all of these things.

So, in their distaste with the establishment status-quo, citizens of the Western world have become increasingly supportive of populist movements (legitimate or not), and this has been at times enough support to win with, as it was with the Trump campaign and #Brexit. The best response to right-wing populism is left-wing populism. The Democrats refused to respond accordingly, and although Trump was a flawed and beatable candidate, he managed just enough support to beat them.

“Would she have a cabinet made up almost entirely of rich, straight, white men?”

No, it would probably be a fairly diverse cabinet. The policies pushed for by this administration would be wretched and illiberal, but the administration pushing it would be diverse!

But please, tell us more about your hate for identity-politics, Bill.

“We might also have a Secretary of Education who was smarter than a 5th-grader.”

This is one of the only points Bill made in his monologue that I can scarcely argue with, though it is worth noting that Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, was a supporter of school-choice just like Betsy Prince (I prefer to call her by her maiden-name, to remind people that the DeVos clan is not the only wealth right-wing elite family she is part of). No, Hillary is not Obama, but the point is: the last Democratic administration’s pick does not inspire much confidence in Clinton (a less liberal Democrat than Obama) getting it right.

“The anti-Wall Street crowd that was too pure to vote for Hillary ended up putting Goldman Sachs people as: Trump’s top political-strategist, the head of his economic council, and his treasury secretary.”

How does this argument support voting for Hillary Clinton? All you have done is show Trump to be a sellout, not allay concerns that Clinton would have been any different herself had she been elected. Sure, this is an effective argument against Trump, but it is not at all a point in favor of Clinton. Because, really, who can believably assert that Clinton would not have done the bidding of her Wall Street friends (regardless whether they were directly appointed to her administration)?

And this is what the Democrats do not get. You win by establishing yourself as better, not by establishing that the Republicans are no better. That sword cuts both ways. If you cannot distinguish yourself clearly on these issues, then other issues where voters may feel more inclined to support the other candidate will become the deciding factor in the minds of voters. Why should they regret voting for someone who will do the bidding of Wall Street when the only other viable alternative would have done the same and if they otherwise agree with the former more than the latter? On the other hand, this is an issue that would compel otherwise-conservative Americans to consider backing someone like Bernie Sanders, whom we knew was serious about taking on Wall Street and the banks.

“If Hillary was president now, would we be turning the clock back on the one issue for which there is no more time: climate-change?”

As already discussed, Clinton may be better than Trump on environmental issues, but she is far from good on it. Climate change absolutely does require drastic intervention, but Clinton has no interest in doing so.

Second, I cannot help but be reminded that under the Obama administration, environmental policy was routinely put on the chopping-block in the name of coming to a compromise with the GOP. So while Obama and Clinton may always look better on-paper than any Republican on environmental policy, their policies will turn out to be much closer in-fact to the Republicans than their campaigns would ever suggest. I mean, this is the person who told environmentalists to “get a life” that we’re talking about here.

As the saying went, Hillary Clinton’s campaign logo is a perfect analogy to what direction she likely would have gone as president: red, and to the right.

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At this time I have to raise a somewhat tangential point which is nonetheless closely related. Hillary Clinton’s unfavorable-ratings were historic. She was the least favorable (in the eyes of voters) candidate ever nominated by the Democratic party, and second only to Trump himself as the least favorable presidential nominee ever [3]. When Obama ran for re-election, he was vulnerable, yet won thanks in large part to mistakes made by the other side. That was a popular and well-liked politician we’re talking about. Hillary Clinton is neither of those things. And even now, as Trump flounders about in the Oval Office, his approval ratings are either comparable or in some cases even better than Hillary Clinton’s! They are also consistently better than the Democratic party.

What I’m getting at here is this: Hillary Clinton had all the makings of a one-term president. As bad as it is to get Donald Trump to help accelerate climate-change for the next four years, Hillary Clinton policies would nonetheless have done plenty of damage, and would have in all likelihood begotten a GOP presidency for the next four years immediately following her, maybe even eight years due to an incumbent’s general advantage over election challengers. Which is worse for the environment?

And maybe policies like hers on this very topic are the reason for that low rating? That idea never seems to get through to her or the Democratic party in general, and that is why they can never reliably keep the GOP out of office for very long (hence why I argue that Clinton likely leads to a GOP presidency next).

There was only 1 presidential candidate who got it dead-on right on environmental policy: Jill Stein. And true, our system is largely a two-party duopoly, so it was fairly obvious that voting for her was a losing proposition. Why do we have this system, though? Well, because of establishment pricks like Bill use their platform to keep it intact. When have you ever used your platform to raise attention to the ways that the Dems and GOP have stacked the deck against 3rd-party candidates ever since Ross Perot won around 20% of the popular vote (a decent enough showing that could have been further built off of)?? You have not, and will not, because you are a loyalist for one of the two parties responsible for it.

And I would ask someone like Bill Maher this question: if the only presidential candidate on the ballot who is offering the very things needed to save the country from terrible disaster has no shot of winning, do you give her your vote anyway and hang your hat on knowing you tried your best, or do you willingly throw your lot behind any one of those candidates who will usher in disaster? The environment does not care if the president destroying it was the lesser-evil in her last election. I can honestly say that if more people voted the way I did, we would finally have a President giving it the attention it demands and taking drastic measures towards resolving the problem — can you? Then again, Bill is totally delusional about how progressive Hillary Clinton truly is, so I suppose he would wrongly believe that he can say as much himself.

“Would we be having to wonder if our president’s love of dictators foreshadows some kind of coup here?

A coup, Bill? Are you serious??

I have not made my position clear on the issue of Trump’s ties to Putin and Russia. I ought to do so here before I proceed.

Do I think Trump (& Co.) is in cahoots with Russia? Yes, though the evidence is not conclusive of any direct link, I do think that is a fairly safe conclusion to draw, since many in his camp have close ties to the Kremlin. The real question in my mind are how close Trump’s financial ties with the country really are.

Are Trump’s ties to Russia an issue? Yes, insofar as they constitute a possible conflict-of-interest, leaving the door very much open to corruption. On the campaign-trail, Trump promised an “America First” approach (which, though I did not vote for him, I would theoretically approve of), but that approach could easily be threatened by his interests within other countries.

What specific issues could this cause? I am thinking things more like Trump condoning Russian aggression, such as their occupation in Crimea, or opting to go forward with Exxon-Mobil’s oil deal with them worth of billions of dollars, and things of that nature.

… But a coup by Russia, as though Trump will be raising their flag over the White House sometime soon?? Give me a break, Bill. That’s preposterous, even if he is merely using the term metaphorically, as though the White House is taking its orders from the Kremlin. Sadly, Bill is far from alone in his hysteria. The way lots of Trump detractors (especially those in the mainstream media) speak of Putin’s influence over the White House makes it sound like many of them fear Russia annexing parts of the country, or something. In so many ways, these Democratic pundits fear-mongering on Russia sounds like the Republicans did with the Benghazi incident, or that Obama was secretly Muslim and intent on bringing the USA under Islamic law.

“And instead of trying to kick millions off healthcare to pay for a tax-cut for herself, she would be trying to raise her own taxes to get more people covered.”

Um, no, she would not be trying to raise her own taxes, if we are going off of the words she stated (or notably never stated) on the campaign-trail. Clinton’s stance on taxes were to cut them for the middle-class, not to raise them on everybody else. At least, I’m fairly certain that was her position, since — again — it’s hard to remember exactly what her positions were because she spent such little time actually talking about them rather than attacking her opponent (and not attacking him on policy, but on character, as if it’s some shocking revelation that the notorious filthy-rich playboy from New York turns out to be a jerk). Once again, Bill is either uninformed on the subject he is supposed to be know a lot about, or is lying to the audience.

Hillary Clinton seemed to support the public-option route for healthcare, and it came out that she was opposed to single-payer, but who knows what she really would have done? I could easily see her happily sit on Obamacare as-is, especially while we were distracted by major conflicts she would have pushed for. Obama himself never made much of an effort to improve the law.

I suppose Bernie and other Dems would have tried to push for single-payer as they are doing now, and one would expect that Hillary would have been a better bet to actually sign such legislation than Donald Trump will likely ever be. On the other hand, Bernie may have faced an even tougher opponent to such legislation: Establishment Democrats, who would make some excuse or another for why Bernie’s attempts to hold Hillary to the party’s progressive platform is actually undermining her presidency and would demand that he fall in line. Hell, they are opposing him now even without the validation of the past election at any level of government.

“She wouldn’t be complaining ‘it’s complicated, who knew?’ She knew!!”

(Bill also calls Hillary a “reader” shortly hereafter, as a jab at Trump’s poor literacy skills. We will revisit this idea in just a bit.)

Openly fawning at this point, do we still believe that Bill’s love for Hillary “never was” -?

At any rate, this is the one argument I feel is clearly, unequivocally in Clinton’s favor over Trump: she knows the ropes, so to speak, whereas Trump has no idea about holding government office and what it entails (which could now be our saving grace against the GOP’s radical right-wing agenda).

That said, I also feel like Clinton would have proven ineffectual at getting much of the Democratic party’s more liberal/progressive legislative goals passed, mainly because the GOP became remarkably effective at being an opposition party under Obama (even on issues where public-opinion was firmly on the Democrats’ side) and the Dems were just always so hopeless to break through. The Dems’ failure to fill the late Antonin Scalia’s vacated seat is a prime example of that, as well as the GOP blocking gun-control legislation even in the wake of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook. Around 90% of the country favors such legislation [4]. Whatever the Clinton administration would manage to get passed would likely be heavily bastardized by GOP interests.

“Do you really think (…) conservatives would be in control of the Supreme Court, as they will for decades? Just wait as the 5-4 decisions kick in(…)”

(… Bill goes on to list a number of issues where a right-leaning Supreme Court would make regrettable decisions for the rest of the country, none of which I would dispute very much)

Ahh yes, the Supreme Court argument, one of the relatively more convincing ones that existed for Hillary Clinton, yet it never seemed to occur to this smart “reader” (as you call her admiringly) that she should actually use that argument on the campaign-trail!! Clearly this paragon of wisdom was so immensely qualified for the role of president.

Criminy cripes, even Trump was smart enough to recognize the importance of the Supreme Court in this election and respond in two effective ways. He first released a list of potential candidates for the role. I remember hearing/reading some concerns among Republicans that Trump — who ran on a platform that was less conservative than usual by GOP standards — would not appoint conservative (enough) judges. Trump put those fears to rest by releasing the list, which also helped get other notable Republicans like Ted Cruz (who first raised this concern, albeit by invoking his judge sister in a pretty dishonest way) to fall in line and support the party nominee.

Trump also repeatedly made clear what kind of judge would be appointed to fill the seat: a conservative in the mold of Scalia. I can recall this campaign-promise easily from memory. If Hillary ever made any similar campaign-promise (much less harp on that promise as repeatedly as Trump did his), I do not remember it, and I follow this stuff a lot more closely than most folks. A part of me seems to remember her reaffirming support for Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy, but I ultimately cannot recall what her official position here was, and that goes back to the main point I wish to make here: her failure of messaging by ceding this issue (and many others that Americans care about) to gain more support.

For all her superior intelligence that Bill Maher sings praises of, Hillary Clinton still managed to act dumber than Trump on multiple occasions -!!

This also excuses Obama from blame for filling the seat, whereas I truly believe he could have got it done (or use it to help elect Hillary Clinton), and it excuses Clinton from not running a good enough campaign to have actually won and not allow this to be an issue. Instead, he seemed focused on getting the widely-unpopular TPP passed during his lame-duck session (the only issue where Trump has clear support), so Clinton would not have to during her presidency. A lot of the blame for the future of the Supreme Court lies square on them, and the Democratic party in general for their failure to buck GOP opposition.

Lastly, did you not read the Wikileaks, Bill? You perhaps abstained, out of protest towards Russia like the good little minion that you are, but I didn’t (ahh, the benefits of an open mind). In consideration by the Clinton camp for the vacant Supreme Court seat: Texas state Supreme Court justice Wallace Jefferson — a Republican whose major campaign-contributors were strongly conservative!! [5]

(*rubs temples*)

Admittedly, there is no guarantee that that particular individual would have been Clinton’s choice. Also, Jefferson is not as right-wing as the GOP mainstream has become, but he is really no moderate/centrist either. Likely, he would have been similar in nature to Anthony Kennedy, who has been often reasonable, but also helped swing the Court in favor of disastrous rulings like in Citizens United. And, though no guarantee, it’s a pick that reflects the capitulation strategy that Obama seemed to employ by nominating corporate-friendly centrist Merrick Garland for the position (in response to Republican obstruction).

It would also explain why Hillary Clinton was curiously silent on the Supreme Court issue, though it offered a lot in the way of public support (Americans of all political leanings — even self-identified Republicans — disapproved of denying Garland a hearing).

… *sigh of exhaustion*

The vote is an almost sacred thing in my eyes. Though breaking from the way I would usually vote was an uneasy feeling for me, I am proud of the person whom I cast it for, and that is a good feeling that has stuck with me all this time. It’s not like my singular vote made the difference in my state, anyway. The irony here is that people always call 3rd-party candidates a “waste of a vote,” but if I had instead voted for a candidate whose platform did not represent my voice as a citizen, and would have lost if I had given it to her anyway, that is the definition of a wasted vote!

And by arguing that this vote cost her the election, you are — knowingly or not — just making the case that I want you to make: next time, we need to run a (truly) left-wing candidate who will not lose those votes to the Green Party (or, for that matter, the 9% of Democrats that voted for Donald Trump [6]).

 

Sources:

[1] By Fuck (film) director, Steve Anderson (director) is the sole owner of the exclusive copyright of the image. (Provided by Steve Anderson (director)) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

[2]
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[3] Saad, Lydia (Nov 8, 2016) http://www.gallup.com/poll/197231/trump-clinton-finish-historically-poor-images.aspx

[4] Agiesta, Jennifer (Jun 20, 2016). http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/20/politics/cnn-gun-poll/

[5] (Author Unknown) https://ballotpedia.org/Political_outlook_of_state_supreme_court_justices

[6] Huang, Jon (Nov 8, 2016) https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/08/us/politics/election-exit-polls.html

Impeachment: Cure Worse Than the Disease?

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With the ongoing investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, calls for his impeachment have renewed (I will give my two-cents on all this Russia business another time). However, many progressives are not sure the ensuing result – an official Mike Pence presidency – is any more desirable, but quite possibly even worse. I count myself among them.

Word out of Washington is that Mike Pence is the true power in the White House [1]. This is not only easy to believe, it was the predictable outcome of electing a president with no prior experience in government to speak of; that he would lean heavily on the people around him with the knowledge and experience he lacks is the only logical endpoint. There were also some rumors that suggested a Trump Administration would function this way. There were whispers that Don Jr. tried to recruit John Kasich for running-mate by offering to make him “the most powerful Vice President in history” [2]. Again, this is merely rumor, but the idea behind it rings true.

I realize that, at present, many folks suspect Steve Bannon is the true force running the White House after his coup through executive-order (which reports indicate Trump signed without any real knowledge of the its directive) [3]. Ask yourself, though: how different could Pence and Bannon’s agendas really be? Pence is a proponent of the Tea Party movement, and Breitbart promoted that movement’s agenda in a big way while Bannon was their chairman.

So why, then, would anyone find impeaching Trump undesirable if it makes no meaningful difference in how the White House will govern? There are a few reasons…

First, Trump is a human wrench in the Republican political-machine, whereas the machine would probably run more smoothly with Mike Pence operating it. There does appear to be some division among Republicans – mainly between its Tea Party faction and the party establishment – but those issues can be smoothed over more effectively by an experienced politician. Pence once served in the US House of Representatives, and therefore both experienced with and knowledgeable about how Congress operates. Trump has no experience in government whatsoever.

Trump still has lots of clout by default (for example, de facto possession of the bully-pulpit) and his impact therein seems more detrimental to the GOP cause than helpful. The failure of the Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare reflects the party’s incompetence at governing, but for good measure, Trump made the party look even worse by publicly lashing out at the Freedom Caucus. He has also been the administration’s own worst enemy on issues like the Muslim travel-ban by publicly indicating that its purpose is indeed intended to discriminate on the basis of religion, allowing the courts to easily disqualify it as unconstitutional. This again ties into Trump has a proverbial wrench in the machine; not only does his rhetoric spur resistance to him, but his ineptitude prevents them from achieving his party’s goals. That is why, if an impeachment trial does take place, I believe it will happen with the Republican party’s blessing.

There is also some hope that Trump – who ran on some progressive, populist positions – recognizes that these positions are actually popular and will feel inclined to keep those promises, if for no other reason than to maintain his popularity with many whom supported him. This is merely a hope, and one he is poised to dash, given cabinet appointments that point in the other direction. Still, Trump did follow-through on one such position by killing the TPP, something that of the Republicans (including Pence) were united in their support of before the rise of Trump; as they are with all manner of free-trade agreements. There are reports that Trump is still not on board with GOP plans to gut Social Security [4].

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Second, Mike Pence himself is a likable guy, and that worries me. I fear that Pence could win over undecided-voters for one election season and quite possibly two (this in addition to however long he is de-facto president under Trump). A new poll shows that Americans have a somewhat positive view of the Vice President: 47% holding favorable views to 35% unfavorable views, putting him at a remarkable +12% rating. Donald Trump’s standing in the same polls leaves to be desired with his -2% rating (45/47%), but both he and the Veep are doing much better than the Democratic party, whom are currently polling 36/52 for a -16% rating [5].

It’s not hard to see why Pence is viewed positively. He has the impeccable mannerisms and friendly demeanor that Midwesterners are classically known for. This is a refreshing contrast not only to Trump’s overtly aggressive style (hence why those who may not like Trump view the Vice-President favorably), but to the aggressively partisan culture of Washington more generally; cooler-heads give the impression (correctly or not) of being above the fray. Obama had similar appeal in his historic and wildly successful bid for president, rejecting the concept of red-states and blue-states to sell himself as a balanced, judicious change-agent above partisan politics.

But rather than Obama, Mike Pence reminds me a lot of Scott Walker, the Republican governor in my home state of Wisconsin. Walker’s style is very similar to that which I have seen from Pence on the 2016 campaign trail, both striking the listener as sincere and level-headed minds when they speak.

I have watched Walker in debates against Democratic opponents several times during state election seasons, and while the substance of his answers to policy questions are quite off-putting to any Leftist such as myself, his calm and even-keel demeanor makes him hard to otherwise dislike. It makes his arguments seem sincere and credible when they are anything but. As his rivals attempt to rip into him, they come out looking like the bad guys, while Walker comes across as a voice of sanity/reason.

In fact, when preparing for the Vice Presidential debates, Mike Pence’s opponent in practice sessions was none other than Governor Walker himself – and when the debates took place, it showed [6]. As the running-mate to the loose-cannon that is Donald Trump, Mike Pence unsurprisingly tried to depict himself as the even-tempered foil to his brash partner. Tim Kaine’s confrontational strategy played right into his hands. In the aftermath of the debate, most polls indicated that viewers favored Mike Pence’s performance in the debate to Tim Kaine’s – case in point.

With the nice-guy image that Pence has perfected of himself, it’s awful tough for voters to see him for the extremist (I do not throw the word around lightly) he truly is on policy, but it does not take much digging to bring that truth to light. Pence is not merely pro-life, but as Governor of Indiana, he required funerals for aborted fetuses, adding to the trauma of mothers who have chosen to undergo the procedure. Pence does not merely downplay the human contribution to climate-change/global-warming, he calls the very phenomenon a “myth” outright. Pence does not merely believe in cutting government spending, he (as Governor of Indiana) cut spending to public-health programs, leading to an outbreak of HIV in his state (which, ironically, required him to utilize the medicaid programs expanded under Obamacare to solve the problem — which he is now trying to cut). Learning nothing from this incident, Pence recently broke a tie in the Senate to pass a bill defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides HIV testing services. Pence is not merely opposed to homosexuality, he is a proponent of conversion-therapy.

Pence has also shown a troubling pattern of neglecting minority constituents, consistent with the current administration’s charming penchant toward bigotry, though his record does not receive the same attention as the others’ (it’s not as brazen in comparison, but no less insidious). When a lead poisoning crisis broke out in his state, Pence’s attention and aid disproportionately favored white localities to minority-dominated areas. Pence has also refused to pardon a man who was wrongfully convicted of a felony and spent 10 years in prison serving his sentence. In spite of all evidence, pleas of the deputy prosecutor in his case and the parole board, Pence refused to pardon the man. It’s notable that the man in question is African-American. Pence did once pardon a non-white woman whom had admitted guilt on drug charges. His unwillingness to extend the same courtesy to a man who plead not guilty and has since been exonerated is bizarre. Perhaps he’d have preferred the man had been guilty to prove a point -!

Pence has even expressed admiration for former-VP Dick Cheney, going so far as to call him a role model. It’s really quite shocking to make such a statement openly – even, I think, if you are not a Leftist. George W. Bush was an unmitigated disaster as president, so much so that Republicans do not invoke that name any longer (even as they attempt to convince Americans that Obama era policies have been terrible for the country). The Bush brand is so politically toxic that Jeb Bush’s campaign for Republican presidential nominee failed to win a single state in the primary election, this despite massive campaign contributions that poured in after announcing his bid, forcing it to exit not long after the race began – an utter rejection of the Bush brand from the Republican party base of support that once championed it.

The deep unpopularity of Dubya cannot be understated, but Cheney was one of the central forces behind the (second) Bush presidency, and yet Pence seems to see no issue following his example. In truth, the Republicans never stopped supporting the policies that resulted in failure under Bush’s presidency, but rather, they have stopped supporting the former president himself for the political inconvenience he is to them.

All said, it should not be at all difficult to disqualify Pence and everyone else in the administration following a successful impeachment (or Trump resigning under the pressure of one), but the Democrats have shown themselves to be politically inept time and again. This is, after all, the same party that failed to stop Dubya from getting re-elected. It’s also the first party to ever lose an election against a recalled governor (I am, again, referring to Governor Walker).

Lastly, I would also worry about the false sense of security that an impeachment of Trump may give the public, as though it were to mean that crisis has been averted and everything is back to normal. The Republicans’ and the American Right’s agenda more broadly is far from normal. If nothing else, I am glad our current president cannot pass for normal while pushing said agenda.

The only argument for impeaching Trump I find persuasive is that the more cool-headed Mike Pence is not as likely to drive us into nuclear conflict. However, being governed by a President Pence might actually make nuclear annihilation look like an attractive option (just kidding! … kinda).

So, to those clamoring for impeaching this president, I would caution you to be careful what you wish for.

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You might just get it.


Sources:

[1] Stanage, Niall (2/16/17)
http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/319801-vice-president-pences-power-grows-in-trumps-white-house

[2] Voorhees, Josh (7/20/2016)
http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/07/20/trump_reportedly_wanted_kasich_as_vp_to_be_in_charge_of_domestic_and_foreign.html

[3] Smith, Mikey (2/6/17)
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/donald-trump-was-not-briefed-9766516

[4] Delaney, Arthur (3/6/17)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-social-security-medicare-mick-mulvaney_us_58bdb8bfe4b0d8c45f4562cb

[5] http://www.suffolk.edu/documents/SUPRC/3_7_2017_tables.pdf

[6] National Public Radio (10/6/2016)
http://www.npr.org/2016/10/06/496826286/gov-scott-walker-pence-debate-prepper-on-trumps-strategy-party-policy